Published March 18, 2013 | Updated January 9, 2020
It’s not uncommon to find an equipment vendor who doesn’t offer managed print services (MPS) because they feel it opposes their core business competency, selling equipment. The reality, however, is quite different. Providing MPS solutions is an effective strategy for selling equipment over the long term and from a very advantageous position: inside. MPS solutions can truly become the Trojan Horse of equipment sales.
The MPS offering was born when office equipment vendors realized the profit potential of the corporate focus on printing and copying cost containment. Their customers were struggling with the challenges of determining the enterprise-wide costs of printing and copying. Once that cost had been determined, often to the shock and dismay of management, the challenge became managing and controlling the sprawling fleets of copiers, printers, scanners, and fax machines.
The fact was that most companies, regardless of size, had never really paid attention to the aggregate cost of printing and copying. It was typically viewed as one of the costs of doing business, and it was buried within departmental administrative budgets. But when the costs were isolated, they were often much larger than expected and in many cases staggering.
The opportunities presented when companies, particularly large ones, become aware of the total cost of their printer and copier fleets are immense. By providing the infrastructure and expertise necessary to manage a customer’s printing and copying costs, an equipment vendor can insert themselves directly in the customer’s business processes. Instead of simply selling a piece of equipment when needed, the equipment vendor can now engage as an important part of ongoing business operations.
The most important distinction that an equipment vendor needs to make about the decision to offer an MPS solution is that it is not an equipment sale. Instead it is the sale of bundled services with a very strong value proposition: to directly reduce the existing costs of printing and copying. If this sounds counterintuitive for an equipment vendor whose business, after all, is based on selling equipment, it really isn’t. In fact, here is where the MPS solution becomes the Trojan Horse approach to equipment sales.
Since an MPS solution typically extends over several years, at least, the equipment vendor/solution provider has a significant and privileged opportunity to work the account from within, similar to the way the fabled Trojan Horse was used to capture the city of Troy. With the equipment vendor completely plugged into the customer’s printer and copier fleet, a very favorable sales environment begins to develop.
Once the transaction is closed and the MPS program is underway, the Trojan Horse is in place. At the heart of the MPS offering is the ability to track all aspects of the printing and copying cost picture. The cost of the equipment itself, along with paper, toner, maintenance contracts, and everything else associated with the fleet, must be included. These disparate costs must then be correlated and aggregated to calculate a cost-per-usage amount. Typically, the system used to track cost per usage is provided by a leasing and finance company working in partnership with the equipment vendor as an outsourced, co-branded, or even private label service.
Regardless of how it is provisioned, every month the solution provider submits reports detailing the usage patterns of all copiers and printers in the fleet, along with a bill for actual usage. Reports often also include specific, consultative suggestions on how to manage – and reduce – costs. Over time this kind of relationship evolves, with the equipment vendor transitioning from outside solution provider to inside trusted advisor, a huge shift in perception and trust.
Because a major piece of the overall cost management process is the timetable for equipment upgrades and replacement, the equipment vendor can specify precisely the right equipment exactly when it is needed in an ongoing flow of equipment replacement and upgrade proposals.
Timely equipment proposals based on intimate knowledge of the customer’s printing and copying requirements, combined with trusted advisor status, give the equipment vendor serving as an MPS solution provider a decided competitive edge. Instead of calling on the customer as just one of many competitive equipment vendors vying for new business, the MPS provider is in fact selling from within. It puts the equipment vendor’s sales force in an advantageous position which can be easily leveraged over time into an exceptionally profitable sales relationship. The lesson here is clear: a Trojan Horse strategy built around MPS solutions is a proven and very effective means of selling equipment.